Hibernia incident raises new safety questions9/5/2012
Another close call on an oil rig off Newfoundland has put the spotlight on offshore safety issues.
The latest mishap occurred on Friday at the Hibernia platform, when a 700-kilogram cooler became disconnected from a lifting beam and fell three metres to the floor.
This happened nearly two weeks after another incident on the Henry Goodrich, where a hydraulic cylinder plunged to the rig's floor. It's still not clear what happened, but drilling stopped immediately.
The Henry Goodrich was then relocated to Conception Bay, where it will remain offline until it has been declared safe by the Canada Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), the organization that regulates offshore oil drilling.
No one was hurt in either incident. But there's no end to the questions surrounding offshore safety.
For the union that represents offshore workers, accidents like these highlight the need for an independent safety regulator.
"We, as workers, need somebody that we can talk to and deal with one on one," said Dennis Flood, chief shop steward aboard Hibernia, and a representative of CEP Local 2121.
"I'm not sure that we got that now. I don't think that's possible when the regulator that's issuing the license is looking out for our safety. I'm afraid there may be a conflict there."
This isn't the first time an accident like this has happened. In 1997, Hibernia suspended its testing of an emergency evacuation system after a gondola fell off a cable. No one was hurt then, but it was another near miss.
Husky Energy operates the Henry Goodrich rig for its owner, Transocean.
"Husky has a strong safety culture and takes all incidents and near misses seriously," said Husky Energy in a statement. "We are currently working with Transocean to investigate the cause of this incident and will take actions to prevent a recurrence."
Flood believes safety should come first for offshore rigs.
"We have to eliminate all the hazards and make sure everyone gets home the same way they came to work," he said.